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“When I started at Star Trek, the Klingons were already part and parcel of the franchise. But when you really broke it down, you didn’t know that much about them.”
Star Trek fans can thank writer Ronald D. Moore for helping us get to know more about the franchise’s iconic villains, as he was “the Klingon Guy” on Star Trek: The Next Generation whenever the series wanted to mine the popular alien race for more story and drama. Moore’s crowning achievement in that regard was “Redemption, Parts I and II.” “Part I” served as the season four finale in 1991 and the series’ 100th episode. In this epic installment, the Enterprise’s Klingon officer Worf (Michael Dorn) is forced to choose between Starfleet and his people when a civil war threatens to tear the Klingon Empire apart. This landmark episode, which celebrates its 30th anniversary on June 17, almost never happened — thanks in large part to an internal conflict behind the scenes that mirrored the one audiences would see onscreen.
The source of this conflict? Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.
“I remember that Gene was not fully on board with the idea,” Moore tells The Hollywood Reporter. “He didn’t really see Worf as a primary character. [TNG] was about Picard. He was the Captain. This was the first time that Next Gen — that Star Trek, really — had ever done a big war story like this. And this was going to be the series’ 100th episode on top of it. So, we had to fight somewhat to get the episode going.”
Executive producer Rick Berman and late TNG showrunner Michael Piller helped run interference on that front to get the episode greenlit, as they did earlier in season four for another Moore-scripted episode, “Family.” In fact, Piller and the staff originally planned for the “Redemption” Klingon civil war arc to be the cliffhanger for season three. But the episode was pushed in favor of what would become the popular Borg storyline “The Best of Both Worlds.”
Once the episode was officially approved, Moore leaped at the chance to continue the Klingon world-building that he started with the Klingon-centric season three episode “Sins of the Father.” In fact, Moore’s first official writing assignment involving Klingons — apart from his Worf-focused spec episode, “The Bonding” — occurred very early in his tenure with TNG.
Recalls Moore: “Michael Piller — on my first week — because he knew I was a fan, and he was new to the show and Trek and was trying to get his feet under him, he said: ‘Just write me a memo on who the Klingons are.’ So I was like, ‘OK! I’m going to write you a memo on who the Klingons are.'”
That memo helped lay the foundation for “Redemption,” whose events would impact the next 30 years of Star Trek.
“[That is something] that I did not really expect,” Moore reveals. “It is kind of funny because, when I started at Star Trek, there were only a handful of episodes of The Original Series at the time that focused on them. And they make a cameo appearance, essentially, in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and are the villains in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. They were just kind of ‘the bad guys’ of Star Trek. And you never really learn that much about them.”
What we learn about the Klingons in “Redemption” is that the villainous Duras sisters are manipulating politics on their homeworld and working in secret with the Romulans to help their ascent to power.
“They are great characters; I really enjoyed writing them,” Moore says. “They were these big, Shakespearean characters that you could really take some big swings with. Michael was the one who initially came up with the idea of having these two sisters be the foil and the people pulling the strings behind this Klingon power grab.”
The siblings would go on to appear in the first Next Gen feature film, 1994’s Star Trek: Generations.
The character that Moore did have a hand in creating for the first half of this two-parter, the half-Romulan, half-human Sela (former TNG regular Denise Crosby), appears in the cliffhanger’s final scene, a shocker that TNG spent most of the season setting up. Sela — the offspring of an alternate timeline version of Crosby’s Tasha Yar character and a Romulan — first appeared in shadow during season four’s “The Mind’s Eye,” a Geordi [La Forge, played by LeVar Burton]-centric episode with a twisty, Manchurian Candidate-esque story where the Romulans conspire with Klingons in an assassination plot. Crosby had the idea for Sela during production on the classic season three episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” and Moore and the rest of the TNG writing staff used the events leading up to “Redemption” as a way to introduce fans to that character. In fact, Moore says that revealing Sela, and building up the Klingon mythos, was to use “Redemption” as a means to tear it all down.
“That was definitely the intent. It was like, ‘OK, now let’s just get into it.’ At that point in the series, we were at a place where we could really mess with it. Give them a civil war, and let’s really get into how the power struggles with leadership would really work,” says Moore. “And explore the great Klingon [family] houses, and the great dynasties and histories. Especially the rules of the planet and how they conduct warfare. I loved writing that two-parter. It was just really fun to go off into that world.”
Thanks to Moore’s work, the world he helped build still looms large in the Trek universe.
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